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A Just Settlement?

August 5, 2013

Nascent settlement near the ancient site of Herodian

Nascent settlement near the ancient site of Herodian

photo Copyright Karen McDonnell May 2008

Recently I’ve been looking through my work – it’s always submission time chez moi. I revisited some of my non-fiction prose, specifically Unsettled – an account of my trip to the West Bank in 2008.

Yet again there are talks about talks, and John Kerry thinks he’s accomplishing something. A while ago, I posted on Facebook a comment to the effect that if the Israelis want to talk now, then something else is going on in the background. And it won’t be to the Palestinians’ benefit.

That’s the pattern. Has been for years.

Particularly, I was thinking about Israeli settlements: about the policy of settlement and the effects of those settlements on those whose land is confiscated, whose access to farmland is curtailed or denied, and on those who lose their homes. It is far easier to understand the scale of the human wreckage created by the illegal settlements when you visit the West Bank and take a ‘settlement tour’.

If you can’t do that, at least check out B’tselem – an Israeli human rights organisation. Also I would urge you to read a no frills, well-written commentary by Frank McDonald in the Irish TImes of Saturday 3rd August. Click here for the link.

When I was drafting my piece about the settlement tour around Jerusalem, I wrote a mock-up manual on how to build a settlement. My editor didn’t think the style suited the overall piece, and I managed to make the point in a different way. Never waste anything, however!

Here is the original…


Manual: How to Produce a Settlement, in Ten Easy Steps.

  1. Acquire your land.  This may involve land grabbing. Be righteous; use the Bible as precedent wherever possible. Induct archaeology and history as co conspirators. If you can use terrain that was once called ‘Dead Land’ by the people who say they own it, all the better.  Referring to Ottoman era accounts of that land belonging to no one and everyone may advance the success of your present day claim. Creative mapping and boundary changes are a useful tool, as are bulldozers, the IDF, and complicit Municipal and State authorities. Use complicated legalities that Dickens would admire were he writing up ‘Jarndyce and Jarndyce’ in modern times.
  2. You have your land, put something on it. This too may act as a function for claiming ownership in retrospect. It could be something as small as a transmitter.
  3. That transmitter could be attacked by unfriendly farmers or villagers. It needs security. Build a security hut for your transmitter.
  4. Your security hut will have to be manned. You’ll need people. They will need a toilet and cooking facilities. Therefore, it must have a water supply. And more people, to service the place.
  5. You can’t expect people to live in a place like that. Build them decent quarters. And a good road to get there. Allow the family to come live there too.
  6. Well, those kids need a school.
  7. If you’re going to build a school, you need more than a few kids in it.
  8. If you build it, they will come.
  9. When they come, they will exclude any others who used to call the place home – by force or inconvenience.
  10. Congratulations! You’ve just built a settlement.



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